Wild Life

Works from the Collection

24 May 2014 - 2 November 2014

This exhibition brings together a selection of paintings from the Gallery’s holdings, in which the artists try to tap into a set of instinctual, visceral and even spiritual qualities through their depiction of animals.  Wild Lifeventures into the highly contested areas of animal magnetism, intuitive communication and animism as part of the discourse around these artworks.

In the very earliest time,

when both people and animals lived on earth,

a person could become an animal if he wanted to

and an animal could become a human being.

Sometimes they were people

and sometimes animals

and there was no difference.

All spoke the same language.

- excerpt from Magic Words, Robert Bly (after Nalungiaq) in News of the Universe: Poems of Twofold Consciousness.

The evolution of the relationship between humans and the animal kingdom is complex, intriguing and richly layered.  Wild Life brings together a number of works from the Gallery’s holdings with a small selection of temporary loans, where the artists focus in on this subject, try to draw out and even embody the spiritual, instinctual and visceral aspects of these creatures.  The connection between beings and beasts is exemplified in the development of an eternal bond, through socialisation and domestication, with ‘man’s best friend’.  This bond, which can be traced through a vast array of cultures earliest stories, burial sites and artefacts, provides a significant insight into the special magnetism and the mutual dependence between these species. 

The transformation from feral to farmed, wild to tamed, says as much about human history as it does about the impact and consequences of its development on the natural world.  As the kinship between people and the natural world increasingly drifted apart, we started defining our humanity as not-animal and not-other.  However, in spite of this, there remains a longing for a distant prehistoric period when no such distinctions existed.  And it is in this terrain that artists continue to delve, seeking to find and uncover a human ‘consciousness’ borne out of and buried in myth: where the symbolic encounter with the unknown and unidentified is still vital.

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